The Grade 3, $200,000 Red Smith Stakes Nov. 23 at Aqueduct features a nice field of 11 stakes quality turf runners, two also-eligibles and three more entered for the main track only should the race move off turf due to weather.
Of the 11 in the main body of the race, four have won a stakes on turf in one of their two most recent races. Marzo leads that group, having posted the 14.50-1 upset in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland in his most recent race. Red Knight is another as he was victorious in the Point of Entry Stakes last month at Belmont Park. Tiz a Slam won the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes one before last, in July at Woodbine, while Dot Matrix won a stakes for New York-breds in September. Others with recent competitive form at the stakes level are Nakamura and Postulation, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Sycamore. Sadler’s Joy is winless in 10 races since taking the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes way back in March 2018, but he’s faced better than most in the Red Smith field recently as he was third in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes in his most recent start. Glorious Empire fits at the level as well, making his third start after returning in September from nine months off. He won the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes in the summer of 2018. Petit Fils makes his U.S. debut and won the Group 3 Prix d’Hedouville Stakes in May. Have At It will try this 11-furlong turf trip for the first time, but he is winless since taking the Grade 2 Hill Prince Stakes (for 3-year-olds) in the fall of 2018. Red Right Hand enters the race off three straight wins but is running in a stakes for the first time. Also-eligibles Zumurdee and Mokheef appear a bit overmatched. Backsideofthemoon, Bon Raison, and Dynamax Prime are all entered to run only if the race is run on the main track.
In this year’s Red Smith, one of the things that appears certain is a contested pace scenario, as Tiz a Slam and Glorious Empire have earned nearly all their wins when leading from the start. European import Petit Fils shows the comment line “straight to lead” in two of his most recent races as well. With that in mind, the horses that can stalk the pace in third through fifth appear to have the best chance to succeed.
Marzo tops that list. He was claimed by trainer Mike Maker for $62,500 in August of this year and two races later won the Sycamore Stakes at the marathon distance of 1 1/2 miles on turf. Maker, who has a knack for finding horses who can become stakes winners in long races on grass, appears to have found another gem as Marzo earned a career-best 109 Equibase Speed Figure off the claim when beaten a neck before earning a 106 figure in the Sycamore. Answering the question as to whether Marzo can run another “A” race good enough to win the Red Smith, a STATS Race Lens query on Maker’s record with horses having won back-to-back in stakes races reveals Maker has a 10-for-42 record over the past five years, so that appears to suggest Marzo can win his second Grade 3 stakes race in a row.
Red Knight is proven in stakes and in marathon races like the 11-furlong Red Smith. A winner of seven of 14 career turf races, Red Knight won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes last December at the distance of two miles and, in his most recent race, he won the Point of Entry Stakes at 1 ½ miles. Earning a 110 Equibase Speed Figure in the Point of Entry, Red Knight matches up nicely with the best of the Red Smith field and appears to be a strong contender to win.
On class alone, Sadler’s Joy must be respected. Although he has won just one race in 11 starts in 2018 and 2019 combined, Sadler’s Joy faces easier than in his previous two races when beaten a neck in the Sword Dancer Stakes with a 113 figure and when beaten a half-length in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes with a 117 figure. Other than the class drop, Sadler’s Joy has one more factor in his favor and that is he won his only previous try at this 1 3/8-mile distance on the Aqueduct turf, back in November 2016.
The rest of the Red Smith field (with best Equibase Figures in representative races) ,excluding the horses entered for the main track only: Dot Matrix (105), Glorious Empire (118), Have At It (112), Mokheef (95), Nakamura (110), Postulation (112), Petit Fils (112), Red Right Hand (108) and Zumurdee (112).